Ronaldo netted thrice as Portugal secured a big win.
Portugal cruised past Luxembourg 5-0 in a 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifier to edge close towards booking their ticket to Qatar. Record goalscorer Cristiano Ronaldo bagged a hat-trick, while Bruno Fernandes and Joao Palhinha scored once apiece as the Selecao rounded off a fine month.
Ronaldo got Portugal underway with a penalty in the eighth minute after Bernardo Silva was fouled inside the area. Just five minutes later, he doubled Portugal’s lead from the spot before Fernandes added gloss to the scoreline with a third after only 17 minutes.
Profligate finishing meant the hosts couldn’t score more before half-time. Silva, Ruben Dias, Andre Silva and Ronaldo all came close, but it was only in the 69th minute that Portugal found the net again, this time through Palhinha.
The 26-year-old headed home a corner from Fernandes, but Portugal were not done for the night. Ronaldo scored a header from close range to round off his treble and bring up Portugal’s fifth of the night.
Despite the win, Portugal remain a point behind Group A leaders Serbia, but have a game in hand. The two teams are set to lock horns on the final day of qualifiers. On that note, here are the five major talking points from the match:
#5 First-half penalty madness handed Portugal momentum
Portugal received two penalties inside five first-half minutes.
Luxembourg, ranked 94th in the world, were like a lamb at a slaughterhouse in Portugal’s backyard. But it didn’t take long for things to go south for the minnows.
As early as the seventh minute, the home side won a penalty when Bernardo Silva was fouled inside the area by Sébastien Thill. Ronaldo calmly slotted from the spot to give the Selecao the lead.
Just five minutes later, the 2016 Euro champions were the beneficiaries of another spot-kick. This time, Cristiano Ronaldo himself was caught out by Luxembourg goalkeeper Anthony Moris. Once again, he made no mistake from 12 yards.
As the talisman wheeled away in celebration, the referee blew his whistle and asked for the penalty to be retaken, as Pepe was adjudged to have encroached the penalty box a tad too early.
For the third time, Ronaldo stepped up, and successfully dispatched his penalty. It was really close, as Moris had guessed the right way this time, but he couldn’t keep out the Portugal captain’s effort.
More importantly, though, the two goals in the first half essentially ended the match as a contest. The momentum was firmly in Portugal’s favour, and they never looked back after that.
#4 Portugal need to be more clinical with their chances
Portugal had 11 shots on target, but scored only five times.
Five goals in a match with their greatest-ever player bagging a hat-trick; what more could you ask for,? Well, the fact is, with a little more cutting edge, Portugal could’ve even hit double figures on the night.
In the first half, three of their efforts were directed straight at the Luxembourg goalkeeper Moris. Ruben Dias and Andre Silva both headed at him, while Bernardo Silva’s bicycle attempt too was directed in his path.
Ronaldo also broke into a spectacular overhead kick in the second half, but it was brilliantly parried away by Moris. But even then, moments ago, the United ace had dragged a presentable chance wide.
It was only Luxembourg, so the Selecao managed to get away with it. But against more resolute teams like Serbia, whom they’re going to face next month, Portugal cannot squander such opportunities. They must be more clinical with their chances.
#3 Luxembourg toothless in attack
Luxembourg’s best chance of the night fell to Rodrigues, whose effort was parried away.
While Portugal were both menacing and misfiring in attack, Luxembourg were simply toothless. With only two shots on target, Die Roten Löwen never seemed like getting anything from the game.
As the Selecao held most of the possession, the visitors looked to patiently work their way upfield by getting the ball to their talismanic striker Gerson Rodrigues.
Midfielder Christopher Martins stemmed most of their press. He made a few driving runs forward and switched the play out to full-back Mica Pinto in an attempt to break Portugal open.
However, that didn’t fully come to fruition, as Portugal held firm, with Nuno Mendes, Andre Silva and Joao Cancelo all making vital interceptions whenever the visitors threatened to get the ball to attacking areas.
In the 71st minute, the Red Lions found their best chance of the game. Rodrigues received a pass on the left, but he was left to finish it alone. He attempted a low drive from a tight angle which Patricio pushed wide. It was as close as Luxembourg got on the night.
#2 Portugal are coming for Serbia
It will be intense, but Portugal could beat Serbia and win the group.
As mentioned before, Portugal still don’t have Group A in the bag yet, as Serbia are currently leading the group with 17 points. But there’s a caveat – the Balkan outfit have played a game more, and these sides are scheduled to play on the final qualifying day in mid-November.
The Selecao will e at home, so it shouldn’t be much of a problem. But even then, their performance on the night was good enough to suggest they could seal an automatic qualification to Qatar at Serbia’s expense.
#1 Hat-trick hero Ronaldo knows no stopping
Records tumbled once again.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s thirst for goals and records is simply unquenchable. Having already broken the men’s international goalscoring record last month, he’s now the all-time highest international hat-trick scorer too, with ten.
He opened his account for the night with two penalties in quick succession, the second of which he won himself. But a treble didn’t seem to come, as the Manchester United star missed a few good chances on the night.
Midway through the second half, he even launched a spectacular overhead kick and directed it perfectly on target. But the Luxembourg custodian Moris produced a fine stop to parry it away for a corner.
It would’ve been some way to bring up his hat-trick. But after some more time, Ronaldo got it, heading the ball home from close range off a brilliant cross from substitute Ruben Neves.
In the process, he got his international tally to 115, six more than the previous record-holder, Ali Daei. With over a year still to go for what could be his Portugal swansong, Ronaldo has ample time to extend his record further.